Boost for young patients in Katanning

Kendall O'ConnorGreat Southern Herald

Katanning District Hospital is home to a state-of-the-art hearing facility and now anyone under 21 can access it for free.

In August 2013, a field sound booth was installed in Katanning Hospital and specialists would visit once a week to test patients.

ACCB Hearing audiologist Carol Furlong has been visiting Katanning on a weekly basis treating seniors with hearing conditions.

As a result, Southern Inland Health Initiative applied for funding for services in Katanning.

Thanks to the funding, younger patients now have access to the facility, which leaves Katanning as one of the few regional towns in WA to have free access to the sound booth.

The service can only be accessed for free when children are referred by an ENT specialist, speech pathologist or a school health nurse.

"There are services available for children free of charge, but there are usually significant waiting lists," she said.

"When we started coming to Katanning, we were able to see pensioners free of charge, but the paediatric assessments had to be paid for privately."

This funding provided the means to have the free field sound booth and equipment installed at Katanning Hospital.

It also secured paediatric ear nose and throat specialist services from Princess Margaret Hospital to enable surgeries to be performed at Katanning Hospital.

Ms Furlong said the sound booth enabled her to test children from six months of age.

"To date, I've seen 26 children aged between nine months and 16 years; of that 26, 19 have presented with significant hearing and/or middle ear issues (recurrent infections)," she said.

"The paediatric population (children younger than 18) in Katanning is in excess of 1000 ... so there are a lot that I haven't seen and that need to be seen."

If middle ear issues go unchecked, they can lead to permanent hearing loss as patients age.

The sparse populations in the region and social conditions are some of the reasons behind high ear infections in the Central Great Southern.

"Katanning is fortunate to have this facility as previously this was something only available at Albany hospital or PMH," Ms Furlong said.

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